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Preventing, Understanding and Discussing Death by Suicide

Preventing, Understanding and Discussing Death by Suicide
By stella
06th Sep 2022

Over the pasts few decades, awareness of suicide prevention in the United States has expanded. Independent volunteer prevention programs like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, various counseling programs, and government programs on the local, state, and federal levels like the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline have all taken shape to help those in need. While these programs have saved countless lives, it is hard to know someone that hasn’t been affected by suicide whether it be family, friends or coworkers. A recent Stella employee survey revealed that just over 51 percent of it’s employees have lost a loved one to suicide. 

Though awareness surrounding suicide has become more prevalent, it is still a leading cause of death in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States with 45,979 deaths in 2020.” Suicide rates saw an increase of 30 percent between the years 2000–2018. The rate decreased in the years 2019–2020 but still remains on the list of highest mortality rates in the country. 

Who is affected the most by suicide and suicide attempts?

While all different types of people are affected by suicide and suicide attempts, some groups are more at risk than others. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, the groups most affected by suicide are: 

Middle-Aged People and Older Men

Upwards of 80 percent of all suicides in the U.S. are among middle-aged men and women, 45-54. Men 85 and older have the highest suicide rate in the country due to possible isolation, a history of violence, and more. 

American Indians

Young American Indian men face a greater risk of suicide and suicidal ideations due to isolation, historical trauma, poverty caused by systemic issues, cultural stress, and more. American Indian men in the Northern Plains seem to face the greatest risk. 

Alaskan Natives

Alaska currently holds one of the highest suicide rates in all fifty states. Young Alaskan men are especially at risk due to substance abuse and isolation. 

Two other very important groups affected by higher percentages of suicide listed by SAMHSA are veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ communities. 

Veterans

According to the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, over 6,000 veterans took their own lives in 2019. That’s around 14 percent of the 45,000 plus people that committed suicide that year. “Veterans ages 55-74 were the largest population subgroup,” the VA reported. “They accounted for 38.6% of Veteran suicide deaths in 2019.” Many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress injury that can further lead to debilitating mental health conditions. 

LGBTQ+

The LGBTQ plus community faces an insurmountable challenge with homophobia, hatred, and acceptance from outside parties. This can lead to suicidal ideations and suicide attempts for those receiving the hatred. The CDC says, “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are at even greater risk for suicide attempts, especially before the age of 25.” LGBTQ plus youth have an even higher risk of suicidal ideations and attempts due to their unsafe environments. 

Suicide and trauma

Symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress injury can often run hand in hand with suicidal ideations or attempts. There is evidence that trauma, particularly brought on by sexual abuse in childhood and veterans that have seen combat, does “increase the risk of suicidal thoughts,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair. “In this research, combat trauma survivors who were wounded more than once or put in the hospital for a wound had the highest suicide risk.” Veterans can carry the weight of combat long after they’ve returned home from war. The guilt often leads to suicidal ideations. More studies continue to explain that those with PTSI, or PTSD, have higher suicide ideations or attempts – Partly, due to the lack of preventions or ability to express emotions in a safe environment. 

Treatment of suicidal ideations and attempts

Around five people die by suicide in one hour in the United States, that’s one person every 11 minutes, and the number of those that thought about suicide is even higher, 12.1 million people seriously considered taking their life, and just over three million planned an attempt, and 1.2 million attempted taking their life. The emotional and physical impact of suicide or suicide attempt is astronomical on their loved ones. It can lead to post-traumatic stress injury, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Suicide and suicide attempts can also make a large impact financially. “In 2019, suicide and nonfatal self-harm cost the nation nearly $490 billion in medical costs, work loss costs, the value of statistical life, and quality of life costs,” the CDC reported last year.  

There are various modalities used to combat suicidal ideations. And though, there is no one size fits all approach to solving suicidal ideations, some of the most popular avenues are cognative behavioral therapies that reduce the ideations through patients actively working on coping mechanisms, Antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, anti-anxiety medications that can help reduce symptoms, and support from loved ones. 

New innovations

Over the last couple of decades, new treatments like the stellate ganglion block (SGB) and ketamine have given hope to many with suicidal ideations. SGB is an injection of local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion that helps restore normal biological function. Some evidence has shown that it can efficiently reduce symptoms of trauma, like hypervigilance, trouble sleeping, and anxiety, that can lead to suicidal ideations. 

One person that received SGB treatment by Stella said, “None of the memories have disappeared but I no longer feel them or relive them every second of every day. I was at a point where I couldn’t stop feeling suicidal, it was absolute torture to even imagine having to live another day stuck in my own head. I no longer feel suicidal.”

According to a study byThe BMJ, ketamine has a rapid relief effect on those suffering from depression and severe suicidal ideations. More patients involved in the study reached a full remission of suicidal thoughts within three days time compared to those with a placebo. Like SGB, ketamine is not a cure, but a big step forward on the path to recovery. 

How is Stella handling suicide prevention?

Stella’s number one priority is to help those in need suffering from certain mental heatlh conditions – Conditions that can often lead to symptoms like suicidal ideations or even attempts. The tireless advocates, care coordinators, and medical professionals work daily to ensure opportunities for healing like the stellate ganglion block and ketamine treatments are available to those in need. 

Like a lot of mental health companies, Stella has actively opened up a conversation about mental health, combating the stigmas surrounding those suffering. The more open people are, the more resources become available to those that may not know where to search. The Stella blog has opened up a dialogue about the signs and symptoms of trauma, depression, anxiety, and more. The Story of Our Trauma podcast offers insight from those experiencing similar situations, like Ron Self, a veteran affected by a suicide attempt. And our testimonial page has shared personal stories of successful solutions to those combating symptoms. 

What else is being done to prevent suicide and suicide attempts?

More than 90 percent of people who survive an attempted suicide never go on to die by suicide, according to the CDC. But 90 percent is still far too many people. Recent large-scale programs from the federal government have been initiated, like the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, to help with suicidal ideations that can lead to suicide attempts. 

The 988 Lifeline

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 suicide prevention counselors from over 160 centers in the United States. The Biden Administration increased federal funding from $24 million to $432 million to include resources for select groups of people like the ones mentioned in the previous section. It is available and open to anyone that is in emotional distress or facing suicidal ideations. 

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a volunteer organization that has been around since 1987 and has remained a valuable resource for those looking for help with suicidal ideations. The organization actively funds research and education surrounding suicide, advocates for policies at a federal level, and supports those that have been impacted by the suicide of a loved one. 

Suicide remains a leading cause of death in this country, but with awareness and active dialogue, we can lower the number of those with ideations, plans and those that take their own life. The resources are available, and if you or a loved one is suffering from suicidal ideations, please connect with the 988 Lifeline.

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Groundbreaking Clinical Study on SGB is in the Works

Groundbreaking Clinical Study on SGB is in the Works
By stella
19th Aug 2022

Our Beginning

Stella’s mission from day one is to alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with innovative solutions like the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB). We’ve helped and will continue to help, thousands of people find lasting relief from trauma symptoms of all kinds. As conversations around trauma continue to grow, so must SGB awareness.

A Big Jump Forward

Stella is excited to hear that a research study from NYU Langone Health will clinically test the efficacy of SGB on PTSD. This study aims to illustrate that SGB can efficiently reduce PTSD symptoms.

A Future of Healing

Studies like these help raise the much-needed awareness surrounding PTSD and usher in effective and innovative pathways to care. If you want to learn more or are interested in participating, please click below. 

PTSDASTOP.ORG

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Law Enforcement Faces Mental Health Challenges Daily

Law Enforcement Faces Mental Health Challenges Daily
By stella
20th Jul 2022

About one-half of all U.S. adults will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives, but most do not develop PTSD. For law enforcement, it’s an entirely different story. As first responders, they stand face to face with traumatic events on a daily basis. From medical emergencies to natural disasters and violent crime, exposure to trauma for police officers, detectives, and even correctional officers is inevitable.

Law enforcement is asked to have “tough skin” while on the job but responding to and witnessing repeating traumas can take a toll on the mental health of those that protect and serve, especially for those with over five years of service. 

Post-traumatic stress among law enforcement, particularly police officers, is higher than one may think.

  • 35 percent of police officers have PTSD (vs. 6.8 percent of the general population).
  • 9-31 percent of police officers have Depression (vs. 6.7 percent of the general population).
  • 55 percent of police officers reported that they consider quitting their job on a daily or weekly basis.
  • The majority of police officers reported that they often feel trapped or helpless in their job at least once per week.

This weight can not only disrupt our professional lives but our personal lives as well but also lead to suicidal thoughts among some of the law enforcement population. 

  • 7.8 percent of police officers have pervasive thoughts of suicide.
  • Law enforcement personnel are 54 percent more likely to die by suicide than all decedents with a usual occupation (13 out of every 100,000 people die by suicide in the general population – that number increases to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers).
  • African Americans in law enforcement are two times more likely to commit suicide. 

Law enforcement and their mental health care access

Many in the force are reluctant to seek out mental healthcare for the traumas that have built up over time. Most officers cite reasons as the stigma and fear that seeking assistance is a sign of personal weakness, followed by fear of job loss or repercussions in the workplace.

Even beyond the stigmas, 38 percent of police officers reported that their department does not provide adequate mental health services. According to a 2020 study involving 400 Dallas Police department personnel printed by JAMA, the journal for the American Medical Association, there are four main barriers to mental health access among law enforcement: 

  • The inability to recognize when they are experiencing a mental health issue
  • Concerns regarding confidentiality
  • Belief that mental health professionals cannot relate to those working in law enforcement jobs
  • Notion that those who seek mental health services are unfit to serve as officers in the criminal justice system

Because of these concerns, less than 20 percent of police officers with confirmed mental health issues had sought services in 2019. 

Progress is being made

There are many individual non-profit groups and government organizations that assist with access to mental health treatments for law enforcement, but in recent years, one of the most notable organizations is COPS Office. 

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) was established through the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and provides assistance with community policing, and creates initiatives to advance the mental health and wellness of law enforcement officers in each community.

And, in 2018, with the help of the COPS Office, the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act ( LEMHWA) was signed into law. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this act called for the DOJ to submit a report to Congress on mental health practices and services in the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that could be adopted by federal, state, local, or tribal law enforcement agencies and containing recommendations to Congress on the effectiveness of crisis lines for law enforcement officers, the efficacy of annual mental health checks for law enforcement officers, expansion of peer mentoring programs, and ensuring privacy considerations for these types of programs. 

Expanding Treatment Accessibility for first responders

Though the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) treatment itself has been around for over a century and has been used to treat veterans and special force operators for years, SGB is fairly new to the public. 

Mental trauma often results in debilitating symptoms that can originate from the sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response. When individuals suffer from trauma-related symptoms, oftentimes this fight or flight response is still in “high gear” after the trauma.

The SGB procedure interacts with the sympathetic nervous system to help restore normal psychological function and can address the biological symptoms associated with trauma. Using image-guidance techniques such as ultrasound, fluoroscopy, and computed tomography, a licesned medical doctor injects a local anesthetic into a bundle of nerves found near the base of the neck. 

The treatment can help support the brain’s natural fight or flight response and can lead to a restored sense of safety and calm. SGB has been shown to have dramatic positive effects and can also help accelerate the positive impact of other therapies.

At Stella, more than 80 percent of those experiencing trauma found relief. Over 4,500 people in 48 locations around the world have been treated, many of them first responders. Luis, a law enforcement officer hurt in the line of duty, received SGB and experienced life-changing results which you can hear about here.

Seeking mental health solutions can be difficult, especially when it is engrained in a culture that needs “tough skin” to carry on throughout the day. But, mental health is an important part of survival for every human, especially for law enforcement. 

If you’re depressed, anxious, or experiencing suicidal thoughts, you deserve the appropriate care. There are policies and treatments in place, and policies being created that help give you access to the care you need as law enforcement officers. If you are hesitant to find the care you deserve, please know that it’s a click away. 

Learn more about the Stellate Ganglion Block here and gain new knowledge about the treatments that are changing first responders’ lives daily.,  Additional research from COPS Office is available below to assist the advancement of mental health awareness in law enforcement. 

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Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB): What To Expect & What’s To Come

Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB): What To Expect & What’s To Come
By stella
06th Jul 2022

Many people have questions about Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB). What’s the procedure like? How do you qualify? How do you feel after?

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through Treatment by Stella so you know what to expect before, during, and after SGB.

Qualifying for SGB

We will never ask you to tell your story or justify your trauma to qualify for treatment. 

Treatment by Stella is based on the severity of each person’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, and emotional trauma. It’s common for trauma survivors to feel unworthy of receiving care, these algorithmic-based tests help validate one’s experiences due to their unbiased nature. 

For those who qualify for treatment, the journey to relief begins. 

Before Treatment

For many of our patients, waiting to receive SGB is more difficult than the actual procedure. 

Stella isn’t always the first stop on our patients’ healing journeys. It’s common for trauma survivors to try multiple treatments – like prescription medications, talk therapy, or deep breathing exercises. While every time-tested, research-backed treatment has its merits, none of them can guarantee 100 percent relief. When a treatment doesn’t work, it can feel personal. And that may cause us to lose trust in the healthcare system. 

It’s completely normal to be skeptical or feel hopeless about the possibility of feeling good again. Memories of failed treatments can trigger anxiety and hesitation about SGB and worrying can keep us up at night. Our days may be interrupted by intrusive thoughts like:

What if SGB doesn’t work?
What if I can’t get my heart rate down?
What if my vitamins actually had turmeric in them?
I stopped taking my blood thinners, right?
I can’t wait any longer to feel better. 
Will SGB change who I am?

Here are four ways to help ease your mind and cope with this type of thinking before treatment.

Set expectations:

Some feel nervous talking to their friends, family, and care providers following SGB as they navigate the changes in their bodies in real-time. Some feel “pressure” to show positive results so they don’t let their loved ones down. These are common reactions and may even be tied to trauma responses.

Setting expectations with our support circle beforehand can help alleviate these types of reactions after treatment. 

  • Ask for some “quiet time” to yourself immediately after treatment to allow yourself to “unplug” and focus on resting.
  • Explain that you will share a quick update immediately after your SGB procedure followed by more details the next day.
  • Set boundaries for what types of language you want your support system to use. Many prefer to be asked “How are you feeling right now?” instead of triggering language like “Did it work?”

Sharing this 7 Ways To Take Care of Yourself or Others Before and After SGB resource with our support team can allow for them to look back on this document to help answer any questions they may have.

Review Stella’s treatment documentation:

Once treatment is scheduled, Stella will send you an email with the information you need to prepare for treatment, including: 

  • The location (address, pictures of the facility, parking details, how to check in, etc.)
  • Your doctor (their name, picture, medical training, current Board Certifications, etc.)
  • The procedure (what to wear, type of image-guidance used, companion policies, etc.)

Talk to your mental health care provider:

Many trauma-informed therapists are familiar with SGB, and we recommend discussing your upcoming treatment plan with them. If you do not have a mental healthcare provider, we may be able to refer you to one in our network. 

Talk to the Stella team:

If nervousness or anxiety arises on treatment day, please know that you’re in a safe space and you can openly ask questions or communicate your worries to the team on site. Ask your Stella doctor to walk you through the treatment again, step by step. 

Following your treatment

Whether one chooses to stay awake or use twilight sedation, many people experience similar outcomes immediately after treatment. Here are a few of the most common responses:

Sudden urge to cry

Most people report a rush of emotions. We recommend letting out the emotions. This is extremely common and healthy. Your Stella MD partner is familiar with this response and will respect your time and space through this release.

Calmness

While most have difficulty articulating what “calmness” feels like, they know it’s the feeling they are experiencing. We’ll touch on this more shortly.

Lightness

SGB can make people feel like a weight has been lifted off their chest or shoulders. This may make them feel like they can breathe more deeply and in turn feel more rested and relaxed than they’re used to. 

Tiredness

It’s normal to feel tired after a medical procedure. We recommend that our patients take a long nap after they leave get home. Sleep allows the body to heal and feel calm. Many patients find it helpful to turn off their cell phones while resting. 

The Following Days

Be patient with yourself in the days following treatment and revisit the expectations you set for yourself and your loved ones. Depending on how long one’s body has been stuck in fight-or-flight mode, the benefits may be glaring, hard to describe, or difficult to spot. 

Outside of what’s covered within the PCL 5 PTSD symptom tracker, many of the benefits experienced fall under the category of “calmness” and “peacefulness.” 

Calmness | ˈkämnəs,ˈkälmnəs:

the state or quality of being free from agitation or strong emotion.

This comes to life in many forms following treatment:

  • Having a clear head
  • Mind being quiet 
  • Time feels slower 
  • Acting less rushed
  • Feeling comfortable

Over 83 percent of Stella Patients experience lasting relief after one SGB procedure. And, 43 percent of patients schedule two treatments based on the severity of their symptoms.

The Stella Standard of Care was created to meet your needs before, during, and after treatment. 

There are patients that do not receive relief after their first treatment or may not receive as much relief as they were hoping for. In rare cases, some may experience an inability to control emotions, increased anxiety or panic attacks, or worsened sleep. If a second treatment, typically on the left side, is not already a part of the care plan, it will be recommended to those who experience these symptoms.

While the majority of people find relief after they receive the second treatment, Stella will work directly with 10-20 percent who did not experience any benefits from SGB and help navigate them on additional treatment options. 

The Next 14 – 30 Days

You may not notice changes in your symptoms at first but those close to you might observe changes in your behavior. Ask a trusted family member or friend to take inventory of how you’ve changed and have them share their observations with you. This exercise is eye-opening for many Stella patients. You may need to encounter stressful situations to realize that your response to them is different. 

When the body is no longer stuck in fight-or-flight mode, symptoms dissipate, which can positively impact how we move through daily tasks. Many people note that they:

  • Find driving is less stressful
  • See more clearly – colors appear brighter and their vision is sharper
  • Can more easily handle social situations or go out in public
  • Feel more sociable
  • Experience less physical pain
  • Can actively listen and more thoughtfully engage in conversations 
  • Interested in picking up old (or new) hobbies
  • Are a more confident parent and/or partner
  • Are excited about future planning

SGB gives people the ability to feel in a way that they did not think was possible. 

“The final piece to the puzzle. Yes, I needed therapy, meditation & medication, but those things didn’t get me all the way to where I needed to be. It’s like my fight or flight mechanism was stuck in the ‘on’ position and nothing could calm it down. The Stella Center SGB shot did. I’m not constantly triggered or on edge anymore. I can finally enjoy the new perspective and positive outlook that I gained from therapy. Life has its ups & downs but they’re manageable now. Life is brand new.”

Read more of Stella’s anonymous reviews in real-time to hear more about how people are experiencing life after treatment.

How Long Does SGB Last?

The lasting impact of SGB varies from individual to individual. In a study where participants were surveyed 3-6 months after treatment, 70 percent still reported a successful outcome. Many people find lasting results for years after treatment.

On average, 8 to 12 percent of Stella patients return for additional SGB treatment. Many have incorporated ongoing SGB treatments into their mental health care plan based on personal lifestyle, stressors, new traumas and/or response to treatment.

While all of the benefits of SGB treatments are still unknown, Stella sees an increasing number of patients reporting after receiving SGB, they have:

  • Improved handwriting
  • Reduced their use of or stopped taking prescription medications
  • Less PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms
  • More memories from childhood
  • Less face and neck flushing
  • Decreased gag reflex

SGB is not a “cure” for PTSD or emotional trauma symptoms. We believe that the formula for lasting relief is a combination of biological and psychological interventions. 

What’s To Come for SGB

While SGB may seem new to the public, the medical industry has been exploring its capabilities since 1920. SGB has been shown to treat migraines and help women find relief from hot flashes and night sweats. More studies are underway to show its effectiveness for treating vertigo, bell’s palsy and much more.

Earlier this year, Stella Provider Dr. Luke D. Liu published a case study explaining how SGB successfully reduced long COVID symptoms. The result of this study led to Stella and RTHM partnering to provide RTHM’s Long COVID patients with access to Stella’s SGB treatment.

A new clinical trial sponsored by NYU Langone Health is leveraging Dr. Lipov’s modified SGB method, the Dual Sympathetic Reset, and Stella’s New York Provider to test SGB’s efficacy on PTSD symptoms through the use of brain scans. Researchers hope will help destigmatize PTSD as an illness and add to the public’s understanding of SGB as a potential treatment. 

Primary care and functional medicine practices, like Cornerstone, are now offering SGB to their patients through Stella’s Certified MD network.

There are many findings that remain unexplored, like SGB’s impact on Tinnitus or its positive impact on Roman/Ward syndrome.

The possibilities around SGB are endless. We won’t stop championing this treatment and providing you with the care you deserve.  

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Stella and RTHM Partner to Treat Long COVID Symptoms

Stella and RTHM Partner to Treat Long COVID Symptoms
By stella
08th Jun 2022

We are excited to announce the partnership between Stella and RTHM, a research clinic treating complex and post-infectious illnesses, to provide RTHM’s Long COVID patients access to Stella’s Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) treatment

Changes in sympathetic nervous system function have been documented in those diagnosed with Long COVID. SGB has helped return the sympathetic nervous system to a healthier state after a biological trigger alters its function. The Stellate Ganglion Block treatment offers promising results and is administered by our many board-certified anesthesiologists trained by Stella. 

The path forward for SGB treating Long COVID

Recently, our partners published a case study in the Journal of Neuroimmunology that showed how SGB treatment reduced symptoms of Long COVID.

 “Stella’s SGB is one of the options within our individualized treatment plans, but it’s an important one,” says RTHM’s co-founder, Dr. Jennifer Curtin. “The collaboration between RTHM and Stella provides our patients with a unique and potentially helpful treatment.”

Long COVID affects up to 30% of those who have contracted COVID-19. Yet few clinicians have the background in post-viral disease or can access all the tools required to treat these challenging conditions. RTHM is unpacking the knowledge gained from other, often post-viral diseases like ME/CFS and leveraging that wisdom for those suffering with Long COVID. 

“It’s clear that Stella and RTHM will both continue to innovate like lives depend on it— because they do,” said Michael Gershenzon, Stella’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer.

RTHM believes in the best outcome

RTHM will collect a wealth of longitudinal biomarker and questionnaire data on patients undergoing SGB, which could help support the efficacy of SGBs in people with Long COVID and potentially other chronic complex diseases.

“Where others see Long COVID as ‘uncharted waters’,” Dr. Curtin says, “we already have a partial map from navigating other post-viral diseases.”

RTHM’s treatment and diagnostic algorithm created by co-founder Dr. Curtin will help clinicians make the best treatment and diagnostic decisions for patients – including Stella’s SGB methodology. RTHM will identify patients that may find relief from SGB and facilitate care with Stella Certified MDs. RTHM will be using apps and biological and biometric data gleaned from wearable devices, which could help support the efficacy of SGBs in people with Long COVID.

“RTHM and Stella have a shared mission: ending needless suffering,” he added.  “The number of people affected by Long COVID represents a major health crisis. Knowing that Stella’s treatment might be able to help an entirely new population is incredible.”

Looking toward a hopeful tomorrow

The only data regarding SGB’s effects on Long COVID are investigative case studies, however, its application in treating Long COVID is novel but promising. And as cases of Long COVID emerge, it’s essential to have attractive therapeutic modalities like SGB and the therapies at RTHM for people to turn to when looking for the appropriate care. 

If you would like to learn more about about RTHM’s Long COVID treatments, visit https://rthm.com/, or to learn more about Long COVID and SGB, please read Stella Certified Doctor Dr. Luke D. Liu’s case study on SGB for Long COVID.

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Coffee or Die: Shot In The Neck Offers Some Relief to PTSD Veterans

Coffee or Die: Shot In The Neck Offers Some Relief to PTSD Veterans
By stella
01st Jun 2022

Michael Ergo struggled with post-traumatic stress for more than a decade following that deployment to Iraq in 2005 with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. But he says he finally found peace last year through a treatment known as stellate ganglion block, or SGB.

While SGB has been used to treat pain for about a century, its use for treating post-traumatic stress is still relatively novel.

After about half an hour of observation after receiving SGB, Ergo was free to leave. He said he noticed the effects right away. He likens the feeling to the immediate aftermath of a good open-water swim in the Pacific Ocean — he felt calm and refreshed.

He half expected that feeling to go away, but a year later, he says he hasn’t experienced a single panic attack since.

“It wasn’t like I was totally blasé,” he said. “I’ll feel the appropriate amount of fear when a situation isn’t right or I need to act immediately. I just don’t sweat the things I used to sweat.”

Researchers hope a newly approved study at New York University will increase understanding of the treatment and help more patients like Ergo find relief.

“Mental health support, familial support, community support are really important around any intervention, including SGB,” Michael Gershenzon said.

While both Ergo and Stella Co Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Michael Gershenzon hope the study will ultimately make it easier for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to try SGB, we emphasized that the treatment shouldn’t be seen as a silver bullet or one-and-done deal.

“This is the closest thing we have to a magic pill,” Ergo said. “But you have to do the supportive therapy with it afterwards to make the changes in your life.”

Read the full article on Coffee or Die

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Trauma is Complicated but Can Relief be as Simple as an Injection?

Trauma is Complicated but Can Relief be as Simple as an Injection?
By stella
04th Apr 2022

Post-traumatic stress is a prevalent and debilitating condition that doesn’t discriminate against anyone. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Regardless of their age, race, gender, and religion, anyone can experience post-traumatic stress. 

PTSD is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault (1).

At Stella, we replaced “Disorder” with “Injury. “Disorder” connotes a sense of permanence which is misleading because PTS is treatable. Disorder can also lead to the stigma that can prevent those who need help from asking for it. We speak more about this in our post, “What is PTSD?”

The Family Tree of Trauma

PTSI can be categorized under several main types of trauma.

  • Acute trauma: A single stressful or dangerous event.
  • Chronic trauma: Repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. 
  • Complex trauma: Results from exposure to multiple traumatic events.

PTSI can come after experiencing events like war, sexual assault, adoption, and domestic abuse to name only a few.  It encompasses many different mental health conditions, like suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety. But because of the stigmas surrounding PTSI, over a quarter of the American population believe it is untreatable.

Current treatments that exist for people experiencing trauma symptoms can be classified as pharmacological therapies or psychotherapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), prolonged exposure, hypnotherapy, and others. Success rates for singular therapies remain inconsistent and, or many, the formula for lasting relief combines biological and psychological interventions. Because of this, clinicians are exploring new options.

The Innovative Options

A study released earlier this year by Stella’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eugene Lipov, Stella’s Chief Psychologist, ​​Dr. Shauna Springer, and other trauma experts concluded the Stellate Ganglion Block is an effective treatment for PTSI symptoms no matter their gender, trauma type, PTS-related drug use, history of suicide attempts, or age.

Out of the 327 patients were included in the final statistical analysis, an overwhelming majority of them experienced relief in PTSI symptoms after the Stellate Ganglion Block treatment. The patient population included 132 civilian females, 13 military females, 85 civilian males, and 97 military males. 

The Results

Dr. Lipov identified 21 types of self-reported trauma leading to PTSI for the individuals involved. Among the 21 types of reported trauma, 19 types reached statistical significance.

The PCL was used, which is a self-report assessment that determines symptoms, screens, and monitors changes before, during, and after PTSI treatment. There was an average decrease in PCL score was 28.59 and 29.2, respectively. The men and women who had a military background had a significantly greater reduction in PCL score than civilians.

Overall, the study concluded that there was a statistically significant improvement in PTSI symptoms independent of the causative trauma type, gender, age greater than 20, previous suicide attempts, or use of prescription medications for PTSI.

While people experience symptoms caused by emotional trauma differently, we all have one thing in common – we are looking for relief. The Stellate Ganglion Block treatment appears to hold promise for both women and men, with both military and non-military traumas.

Post-traumatic stress can be treated as an injury no matter the complexity of the trauma.

Is the Stellate Ganglion Block Right for You?

The Stellate Ganglion Block is a fast, effective, and research-back treatment and when combined with talk therapy, and other mental health solutions recommended by your providers, can be the new standard of care. Stella simplifies the healing journey. Our Patient Care Team will review symptoms and medical histories to determine if the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) is the right treatment plan. More than 80% of Stella patients find relief from their PTSI symptoms. If you are interested in learning more, please contact our Patient Care Team directly by calling 1-866-497-9248.

  1. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp

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Cost, Care, and the Need for Transparency: A Statement From Our Co-Founder

Cost, Care, and the Need for Transparency: A Statement From Our Co-Founder
By stella
28th Mar 2022

This article is written by Stella Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Michael Gershenzon. 

As the Co-Founder of Stella, I’ve got something to say.

The team at Stella is comprised of over 50 full-time employees who come from varying walks of life. Each employee has a unique background and personal story that led us all to where we all are today. They could be doing just about anything with their careers – working at Fortune 100 companies, bolstering their resumes and enjoying luxurious company perks.

But they chose Stella.

They chose a risky, small start-up born during the chaos of COVID-19 attempting to bring to market the first new FDA-approved standards of care for mental trauma sufferers in over 2 decades.

And Stella chose them, along with everyone else who would come under our care. 

The people at Stella are grappling with a conundrum that our clients are also feeling. We’re all asking ourselves:

“Why are these treatments so expensive and why won’t insurance help?”  

Myself, our C-suite and our board have been trying to crack this since inception. As the Co-Founder, I’m going to attempt to very directly answer these “why” questions below.  

The responses are probably unsatisfactory… but true.

Health Runs Through Insurance Companies (and The Government)

For better or worse, the US healthcare system revolves around health insurance companies which serve as the arbiters of what care you can receive (and don’t receive).  At the risk of oversimplifying, we need three ingredients for a treatment to be adopted by insurance:

  • A government agency (i.e. the FDA) signing off the treatment is safe and effective
  • Proof the treatment saves the insurance company money. In many cases this is by offsetting an existing cost elsewhere. The cost of trauma, depression and anxiety are enormous, however they are often indirect (lost productivity, absenteeism, etc..) as opposed to an existing direct insurance cost.
  • A bureaucratic process that entails pitching and contracting with each insurance company to convince them to include this as a benefit for their members

The median cost of FDA approval for a new drug is $19 million.  The process from pre-clinical testing to FDA approval takes an average of 12 years for a drug and 7 for a medical device.  While that time passes, people suffer and in some cases die.

Importantly, the absence of FDA approval or insurance coverage does NOT mean a treatment is not effective. There are roughly 10,000 approved therapeutics for roughly 10,000 individual diseases but once a drug is approved for one condition its often not approved for others where it can be beneficial. A few common examples include:

  • LASIK for Vision Correction (FDA approved but not covered by insurance)
  • Aspirin for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention (not FDA approved for that indication)

Mental Health (Let Alone Interventional Mental Health) Is Way Behind

Despite the jaw dropping impact to the US economy ($210+ billion from depression absenteeism alone, according to the APA), immeasurable personal and familial suffering, and very measurable loss of life (death by suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, according to the CDC), mental health is decades behind other healthcare fields in terms of medical innovation and even willingness to acknowledge the problem. 

As humans, our most important organ, the brain, is one of the least understood. The complexity of the brain and relative astronomical cost of brainscan technology, like fMRI, have put research and innovation in this space on the backburner.

You can see physical symptoms of disease.  You can see a broken bone.  You can see cancer. You can’t readily see mental trauma without a brain scan (see point about its uneconomical cost above).

It’s no wonder why society generally views mental afflictions as “something just in your head that you can tough through.”  

In this context, it may be easier to understand why proven treatments have been forced outside of insurance and FDA adoption.

While the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) for trauma and acute anxiety, ketamine infusions for treatment resistant depression, and other modalities have proven their efficacies, they remain FDA approved for other indications, just not for mental health.  

These treatments are administered by the same exact Board-Certified Doctors which may treat people with SGB or Ketamine for pain, but these modalities are forced to wear the “off-label” tag. This off-label tag impacts everyone involved:

  • Doctors shoulder materially more liability
  • Mental trauma survivors pay out of pocket
  • Companies fight an uphill battle of educating clients 

We’re dedicated to providing people with access to treatments that work while proving to the industry that these biological treatments are not “fringe” – they just haven’t made it through the multi-decade process of FDA approval, insurance reimbursement, and medical community adoption. 

Stella Invests In Much More Than “Just The Procedure”

For every mental trauma survivors we treat, Stella loses approximately $2,000. By the way, we’re not alone. Some companies like Field Trip Health, Novamind, Numinus, Ketamine One, Wesana, Revitalist, TrippSitter and others do as well. (They are public companies and so are their numbers, you don’t have to take my word for it). More on this later.

Unfortunately today, there is no singular “mental trauma cure.” Individuals’ paths to healing are customized to each respective person, their circumstance, their biology and their lifestyle.

What we’re building is not just “a procedure” or “an infusion.” It’s a curated whole person care model which encompasses medical, behavioral and social determinants of care (which may involve a procedure or infusion along the way). Stella pairs biological modalities with psychological ones to ensure the most effective, lasting outcomes.

In some ways, you could compare Stella’s approach to mental trauma treatment to tearing an ACL. Treatment for an ACL tear often looks something like this:

  • Surgery to repair the torn ligament
  • Appointments with qualified doctors to verify all is healing appropriately
  • Medications along the way to manage the pain
  • Months of physical therapy to relearn to walk
  • Crutches to aid your walking while you rebuild strength

We follow a similar blueprint for mental trauma relief.

Stella provides a biological intervention to heal the injury caused by mental trauma, pair it with trauma-informed therapy for reintegration, provide self-help tools to manage the pain along the way, and recommend a support system to ensure you maintain the gains. This is all wrapped up in dedicated compassionate care coordination that guides your journey from beginning to end.

This may shed light on the earlier point – “how is it possible Stella loses $2,000 per treated patient?”  The simple answer is – we don’t exist to “transact a procedure.” Matter of fact, you may be able to get that cheaper somewhere else. 

We’ve invested in 360 degree care coordination that leads to outcomes previously unfathomed. 

This is all on the bet that one day, this will be a standard of care for mental trauma survivors. That insurance companies will adopt the new age of mental healthcare. That those we serve no longer have to come out of pocket for treatment to which they have a right.

Oh and by the way, if we don’t successfully obtain FDA and insurance adoption, we’ll likely be out of business in the next few years.

In Conclusion

We’re not able to fix the US healthcare system.  I wish we could.  We can’t.

We are able to make innovative treatments accessible to mental trauma survivors nationally (50+ locations in the US) and globally (we have locations in Australia and Israel). 

We are able to wrap these treatments in additional care and not view them as “transactional procedures.”  Mental trauma survivors need care – not procedures. 

We are able to prove to the government regulatory bodies that these treatments are objectively safe and incredibly effective for the right people and when administered by the right teams in the right settings.

We are able to prove to insurance companies that these treatments both save lives and save them money.

Unfortunately, between now and insurance reimbursability, these treatments will cost survivors too much money and force companies like Stella to subsidize losses.

We’re working hard to change that. We chose you.

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